December 4, 2022

UK foetal pain research is “politically timed and motivated”

Impartiality of scientific organisations thrown into question

Debate over the issue of foetal pain
continues, as research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and
Gynaecologists
was disputed this week. A statement from a US lobby
group, the Family Research Council statement contends that the RCOG used
a “faulty definition of pain” by saying that foetuses under 24 weeks
cannot experience it.  

A summary of the RCOG statement says that the foetus
is unable to experience pain before 24 weeks because connections between
the cortex (which plays an important role in consciousness) and the
periphery (outer tissue of the brain) are not intact before this point
in the pregnancy. The statement goes further, saying that these
connections are “necessary for pain experience but not sufficient”, and
that there is “increasing evidence that the fetus never experiences a
state of true wakefulness in utero and is kept, by the presence of its
chemical environment, in a continuous sleep-like unconsciousness or
sedation.

An
FRC blog entry described this as
“politically timed and motivated”, and that the study could be used by
pro-abortion activists in the US to argue against a new Nebraska law
stating that an unborn baby feels pain at 20 weeks, outlawing abortion
from that point on. The FRC report
states: “At 20-30 weeks, the
human being has the highest number of pain receptors per square inch,
more than any other time in development. Fibers which help to moderate
pain do not begin to develop until 32-34 weeks, thus making the argument
that babies feel pain more severely between 20-32 weeks.”

As BioEdge
last week reported last weeks, the politicisation of
science in the US remains a hot-button issue. The foetal pain debate is the latest chapter.
~ Family Research Council, Jun 24, Jul 12; Royal Council of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Jun 25

Jared Yee
foetal pain